Earlier this month the Chinese government ordered the closure of 2,087 manufacturing factories by September 30. While many media outlets are focusing on the energy use concerns that are a major factor in this drastic course of action, we want to draw your attention to the environmental issues, specifically around the Chinese textile industry.
Of the thousands of companies that will close, among them are textile dyeing and printing factories that were deemed either heavy polluters, energy wasters, or did not meet safety requirements. The water pollution crisis in China has been going on for some time and is well documented. Up to this point, environmental standards enforcement has been lax with some local officials even blocking cleanup efforts.
China’s economic growth stems in part from heavily polluting industries such as textiles. Water contamination has become so bad that in the first half of this year, 43.2 percent of the nation’s rivers were unfit for human contact–this according to Chinese government statistics reported recently in The Economist. It’s an alarming assessment. Think about that for a minute. The water is so bad in 43 percent of Chinese rivers that humans should not even touch it.
In addition, almost a quarter of all China’s surface water – meaning lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands–fell short of the nation’s standards for industrial use, according to data published by Reuters. Textile mills and dye houses are dumping so many toxic chemicals into the lakes and rivers that waterways are choked with algae.
The closure orders are aimed at eliminating the country’s worst polluters. Three government ministries have proposed taking an additional step by enacting an environmental tax on a trial basis. The tax would cover carbon dioxide emissions and water contamination–potentially increasing the price of Chinese goods. China does not want to add a tax that will impede growth, but at the same time, the country cannot grow if its water supply is unusable.
The central government in Beijing appears to be serious about reducing pollution and energy use. We’re confident that more regulations and enforcement are in store for Chinese manufacturing plants. So, if you’re relying on one of these polluting, inefficient factories to supply the textile for your company’s designs, it’s time to look for a more sustainable solution.
Photo credit: sheilaz413/ flickr